Methodology update moves proposed SCV courthouse higher up priority list

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When the Santa Clarita Valley will receive a new courthouse remains unknown, but recent revisions to the methodology of a statewide priority list of projects moved it up the ranks from “high need” to “immediate need.” 

An entirely new courthouse for the valley is now in 13th place, ahead of 67 other proposed facilities and is the first out of 16 within Los Angeles County. The former rank placed the project at 41, or in the middle of an 80-project list. 

Changes to the Revision of Prioritization Methodology for Trial Court Capital-Outlay Projects, which prioritizes each new facility or renovation based on needs and costs, was presented Tuesday to the Court Facilities Advisory Committee of the Judicial Council of California.

Members of the council heard from staff that the methodology changed in response to public comments, which resulted in the addition of a seismic risk factor. Changes in the point-based formula to determine the cost-based criteria and language in the draft methodology were also made. 

The SCV courthouse would cost about $345 million and have 24 courtrooms. Under the updated methodology, this project now has a priority score of 17, rather than the formerly reported 11.6. For comparison, the project in first place, a new courthouse for the city of Lakeport in Lake County, received a score of 21.5 and the last project has a total score of 3.3. 

The council heard from several speakers on Tuesday, including L.A. Superior Court Presiding Judge Kevin C. Brazile, who shared that SCV is getting a new courthouse during a May event at The Oaks Club in Valencia.

“It is important for the scoring methodology to account for the complexity of the facility portfolio as well as its impact upon court operations in Los Angeles County,” he said. “It is prudent to evaluate the multiple projects as a single endeavor for scoring purposes when attempting to balance the needs and caseloads of the largest trial court in the nation while also trying to overhaul an aging portfolio of courthouses that requires major and oftentimes an overwhelming need for repairs and maintenance.” 

The Judicial Council is expected to meet again in November to consider approval of the final report, which includes the list of capital projects and prioritization methodology. 

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